Observations

November 28, 2011

Barney Frank, former chairman of House Financial Services Committee and the Financial Service Committee (leading up to and during the financial crisis) annonces his retirement and the stock market soars.

Just sayin’


Thanksgiving Observation

November 24, 2011

“You cannot be grateful for that which you feel entitled to”


The Advent of Polygamy

November 23, 2011

Elizabeth Marquardt, writing in the Huffington Post, explains why changes to how our society regards marriage will almost certainly lead to the official recognition of polygamous or polyamorous marriages:

The debate about legal recognition of polyamorous relationships is already well underway. A major report issued in 2001 by the Law Commission of Canada asked whether marriages should be “limited to two people.” Its conclusion: probably not. A British law professor wrote in an Oxford-published textbook that the idea that marriage meaning two people is a “traditional” and perhaps outdated way of thinking. Elizabeth Emens of the University of Chicago Law School published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a legal journal. She suggested that “we view this historical moment, when same-sex couples begin to enter the institution of marriage, as a unique opportunity to question the mandate of compulsory monogamy.”

Mainstream cultural leaders have also hinted at or actively campaigned for polyamory. Roger Rubin, former vice-president of the National Council on Family Relations–one of the main organizations for family therapists and scholars in the United States–believes the debate about same-sex marriage has “set the stage for broader discussion over which relationships should be legally recognized.” The Alternatives to Marriage Project, whose leaders are featured by national news organizations in stories on cohabitation and same-sex marriage, includes polyamory among its important “hot topics” for advocacy. The Unitarian Universalists for Polyamorous Awareness hope to make their faith tradition the first to recognize and bless polyamorous relationships. Meanwhile, a July 2009 Newsweek story estimates that there are more than half a million “open polyamorous families” living in America. Nearly every major city in the U.S. has a polyamory social group of some kind.

What is interesting about this is that it goes to the claim by gay marriage advocates that Christians are merely engaging in a slippery-slope fallacy when they claim the sanction of gay marriage will make any number of human relationships open to official recognition. Such an argument misses the essential claim of traditional marriage advocates – namely that there is an ideal or preferable familial relationship based on biology, history, sociology and moral and religious calculations. That ideal is that of one woman and one man joined together in a monogamous relationship. This arrangement has proven to be consistent with human flourishing, whether we consider that from the perspective of child rearing, health, wealth or the stability of consistency of human communities.

Insomuch as this is true, the rejection of this ideal by gay marriage advocates constitutes a fundamental evisceration of our society’s ability to promote human flourishing and argue against inherently unstable human relationships of the sort Marquardt writes about here. As she notes in her conclusion:

All of which begs questions: How do children feel when they are raised by three or more persons called their parents, especially when those people disagree? If their three-plus parents break up, how many homes do we expect these children to travel between? And why would anyone watching news coverage of arrests at polygamist compounds in Texas or British Columbia — seeing hundreds of pale women wearing identical ankle-length dresses and braided hair amid reports of widespread abuse of and pregnancy among girls — think that polygamy is compatible with a society that values women’s rights and children’s safety?

Why indeed. It seems fairly obvious advocates of sanctioning non-traditional marriages can’t even begin to answer these questions.


Observations

November 22, 2011

I think we could kill two birds with one stone if we just gave OWS protestors the jobs most Americans won’t do.


On A Christian/ Atheist Dialogue

November 21, 2011

I don’t usually do this, but I occasionally find it useful to step back and reflect on my goals and purpose with this blog. Even though I have been blogging for about five years now, my attitude towards my blog has always been like that of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride – “Good job today blog, I’ll probably kill you tomorrow“. Of course I never do kill it, and over time it has taken on a life of its own.

As result of having a blog that takes a position on certain issues, the comments in my comboxes regularly seem to line up along predictable lines of cheerleaders and detractors. I don’t necessarily see them this way but given the subject matter, the nature of blogs and the drive-by intellectualism that undergirds most of what is posted on the web, it isn’t suprising.

And to a certain extent I am fine with that. While this blog is often wide-ranging in its scope, there are certain things I have never intended to do with this blog. For example, one thing I rarely do is discuss my personal life unless it is relevant to the idea I am conveying. Though I don’t blog anonymously, I tend not to discuss my work or education or family on this blog; though it informs my posts I prefer to keep the rest of my life separate from the ideas and opinions I express here. I find Facebook to be a better place to have personal conversations with the friends I make here. Frequently discussions lose focus when they become about persons rather than the ideas being discussed. Ideas are either true or not true and can be explored via reason and logic – this doesn’t change based on the person conveying the idea.

Another purpose I am not trying to accomplish is to have a ‘dialogue’ here with atheists. This doesn’t mean dialogues don’t occur here. I actually have many more atheist commenters here than many atheist blogs have Christians commenting. Nor do I think that relationships between believers and unbelievers can’t occur in in ‘real’ life – In fact I have many such friendships. The discussions that happen here are an outgrowth of ideas plainly and openly expressed not because a feigned attempt to cultivate a dialogue based on artificialities.

But I am skeptical of such a dialogue for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is almost impossible to have an actual dialogue between two people who have almost no common ground on what constitutes truth. The effect of New Atheism hasn’t been so much to advance atheism as it been to remove any commonalties Western believers and unbelievers might have once shared historically. It is becoming apparent the only thing ‘New’ about New Atheism is that it is primarily aimed at polarizing the dialogue. That being said, it is also refreshingly honest – they no longer pretend one can be an atheist and share Western ideals like inherent human worth, equality, and that humans are creatures with a conscience and free will. They don’t pretend the universe has any objective purpose and they assure us humans are merely a product of that purposeless universe. They make it clear that they see the religious as dumb, deluded, and dangerous. Such honesty draws a clear distinction between the beliefs of Christians and atheists, but it obviously provides little ground for ‘dialogue’.

So my purpose here is to do three things; the first is to demonstrate that Christian beliefs can be intellectually defended. Next is to provide a resource and encouragement to fellow Christians and finally it is to demonstrate the fundamental weaknesses of atheist beliefs. As I have said before, the latter purpose is actually the easiest thing I do.

What I am not here to do is convert atheists to my position – I don’t think people can be converted by something a stranger writes on the net, and if they can be then their beliefs weren’t that deeply held to begin with. But I also have no intention of providing a comfortable place for the atheists to advocate on behalf of their beliefs. Anyone coming here to espouse skepticism or atheism will be treated with respect, but they will also be challenged. I believe that the veracity of worldviews are best tested through the vigorous back and forth between advocates, which is one of the reasons why Christianity has always flourished in a society where it could be openly discussed and why societies that were overtly atheistic attempted to squash the open practice and discussion of Christianity.

Which brings me to what provoked this post. For a brief time I had a back and forth with one such atheist on this blog. Mike of the A-Unicornist commented on a number of my posts, and I did the same at his blog. As I have done with many New Atheist advocates, I commented on the ideas and facts he advocated on his blog and he commented on what I wrote here. It usually resulted in a vigorous discussion but that is to be expected from two folks advocating completely different worldviews. Again, I am not looking for ‘agreement’ – merely a clear comparison of what both advocates believe an opportunity for readers to see the difference. As one who sees Christians as fundamentally deluded, Mike and I will obviously disagree on most issues. And as one who doesn’t believe reality can be fully comprehended from a materialistic or naturalistic vantage point, obviously I am not going to agree with most of what Mike says. But that is irrelevant to the discussion – as I said my purpose isn’t ‘agreement’ or even ‘dialogue’, but a clear delineation of what both of us believes so observers can make evaluations.

Mike on the other hand finds such discussions frustrating. I can’t evaluate his personal motivations, but in his own words he said his blog, “is not a place for arguing. It is a place for discussion”, an argument he made when banning me from discussing anything there. And I am actually fine with that; my view of blogs is like they are people’s homes – one should be free to set the atmosphere and invite whomever one wants there. In fact I have banned folks here for chronic foul language or personal attacks. So I was not only content to let Mike go on his way and for me to go on mine, but I would have done so even if he merely requested it. In fact I chose not to comment on it at that time because of my view of blogs.

And I don’t mind that he continues to read this blog and talk about me on other people’s blogs – I would be bored with my own blog too if most of my conversations were with people who unthinkingly agreed with me. I don’t even care that I give him ideas for his posts – that is fairly common amongst those of us that blog about similar issues. But if he is going to base entire posts on something I wrote and refer to me by name, the least he can do is step out of his echo-chamber and engage me directly.

After all, as someone once said when someone avoided engaging them, “If you were passionate about the truth, wouldn’t you be interested in opinions that differ from your own? Otherwise, you’re simply trapped in a self-deceiving bubble designed to protect yourself from the possibility that you could actually be wrong.”

Of course we know such things are easier to say than they are to do.


Friday Fun-ness

November 18, 2011

In this fun and funny TED talk, artist Shea Hembrey becomes a one-man artist collective through an act of creative fervor that both gently skewers modern art and acts as an homage at the same time:


Observations

November 17, 2011

Though it’s tempting to try to tie the Whitehouse shooter with the Occupy movement the way the Left tried to do with Jared Loughner and the Tea Party movement, I won’t go there no matter how much they tempt me.